After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Wednesday, 15 November 2023
Memory consolidation during REM sleep

Out of all the experiments that have been done on memory consolidation and REM sleep, there is one, published in 2016, that I especially love mentioning because it was done at the Douglas Hospital research centre that enabled me to develop this website. Sylvain Williams and his research team successfully used optogenetics to silence inhibitory neurons in the medial septum of mice. Without disturbing the animals’ sleep, the researchers were able to greatly attenuate the 4 to 8 Hz theta rhythm that is associated with memory consolidation during REM sleep. Upon awakening, the mice did not remember the new location of an object. This treatment also disrupted a fear that had been conditioned in a certain context. In contrast, silencing the inhibitory neurons in the medial septum outside of episodes of REM sleep had no effect on memory.

The authors therefore concluded that the theta rhythm, which depends on the activity of the neurons in the medial septum, is essential for the consolidation of contextual memory during REM sleep. Interestingly, several studies (for example, this one, this one and this one) indicate that it is the neurons resulting from neurogenesis during a mouse’s adult life that contribute the most to the memorization of a conditioned fear during REM sleep.

Memory and the Brain, Sleep and Dreams | Comments Closed

Thursday, 12 October 2023
Targeted memory reactivation during sleep

Today I’d like to talk a bit about learning passively while you sleep—for example, by playing a recording. As it turns out, this process seems to work only for very simple forms of associative learning under very specific conditions. You can’t learn anything completely new in your sleep. So, for example, if you play Spanish or French language tapes during the night, without doing anything else, you won’t get any results, except for maybe a bad night’s sleep. (more…)

Sleep and Dreams | Comments Closed

Tuesday, 19 September 2023
Mechanisms underlying anatomical the tracing methods

Today I’d like to tell you about the cellular mechanisms underlying the tracing methods used to visualize the paths that axons follow from one structure in the brain to another. The use of these methods in animal models is based on the ability that neurons have to move molecules along the microtubules in their axons. This process is essential to the normal functioning of neurons and is known as axonal transport. It works by means of motor proteins that, when supplied with a bit of energy, constantly change form to drive all kinds of molecules carried in vesicles, a bit like a porter with a load on his back. There are some animations on the Internet that illustrate this process, and it’s pretty impressive! (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed

Monday, 28 August 2023
The sodium-potassium pump : an essential protein

Today I’d like to tell you about the sodium-potassium pump. This protein is found in the membranes of neurons and of many other kinds of cells, and its role is to re-establish the ion-concentration gradients necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses as well as for other functions elsewhere in the body. Scientists long wondered how the sodium-potassium pump managed to transport sodium ions in the first phase of its work and potassium ions in the second without transporting the wrong kind of ions by mistake (see this animation). It was not until 2009 that scientists were able to observe this protein’s overall structure, and not until 2013 that they were able to demonstrate the answer to this question: the pump changes its conformation (shape) between these two phases. (more…)

From the Simple to the Complex | Comments Closed

Monday, 31 July 2023
Visualization and mental imagery

The process of mental imagery was first demonstrated in experiments such as those by Shepard and Metzler , in the early 1970s, in which the subjects had to decide whether 3D images of arrangements of cubes matched a physical model. To complicate this task, the images in question had been rotated in space. The researchers soon realized that the more the images had been rotated, the longer it took for the subjects to determine whether or not they matched the model, which meant that the subjects were turning the cubes “in their heads” to see whether there was a match. (more…)

Body Movement and the Brain, From Thought to Language | Comments Closed